MADISON, Illinois – Rinus VeeKay moved a step closer to capturing the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires after a dominating victory Saturday afternoon at Gateway Motorsports Park.
The pilot of the No. 2 Juncos Racing Mazda/Tatuus PM-18 got the jump at the start getting around pole sitter Harrison Scott (No. 10 RP Motorsport Racing) and took the lead in Turn 2 on the 1.25-mile oval. From then, it was all about managing the gap as VeeKay held the top spot comfortably for all 55 laps and crossed the finish line ahead of teammate Robert Megennis (No. 9 Juncos Racing) by 8.5507 seconds. Scott claimed the final spot on the podium.
It marked the first oval win for VeeKay, who has enjoyed a string of five consecutive victories, and his seventh win on the year. The result extended his championship lead to 47 points over Parker Thompson (No. 90 Exclusive Autosport) with two races remaining at the Portland International Raceway weekend Aug. 31-Sept. 2.
“It feels great,” VeeKay said. “My first oval win. I can't thank the team enough for giving me a great car.
“This track is just amazing. Coming from Lucas Oil (Raceway near Indianapolis, the other oval on the schedule), in my head I was used to their oval. When I came out of the pits on the back straight and there was such a long straight ahead of me, I was like, 'This is way different.'
“With the two different corners, it's always a challenge because you have to set up a car for the quick, almost flat-out corner and also the slower corner. But it worked out really well. Just super happy to have a big points lead.”
The sizable points lead has VeeKay more relaxed heading to Portland in a week.
“I'm not going to back off in Portland,” he said. “I'm just going to keep it full throttle and try to win there, too. It's just a luxury position I'm in, where I can forgive myself some mistakes.”
Thompson started from last on the 11-car grid after encountering a mechanical issue in qualifying. However, he made the most of it, charging up the field to finish sixth and set the fastest lap of the race at 140.145 mph on the 1.25-mile oval.
“To be honest, there’s just a lot of emotion because this race has brought up memories of earlier in the season where luck just hadn’t gone our way, unfortunately,” Thompson said.
“There is not another group of harder-working people than Exclusive Autosport. I consider myself a pretty hard worker, too, and I really thought that we had a car to come here today and fight for the win. With fastest lap, obviously we did have a car able to fight for the win, but we weren’t granted the opportunity not getting to run qualifying. Heartbroken for everyone that’s a part of the Exclusive Autosport organization.
“This is just going to fuel a larger fire into Portland in a week’s time. I would like two vengeance wins. I think that’s definitely on the cards and that’s what we’ll aim for.”